This is one of the most common issues I see. Many thyroid sufferers, usually Hypothyroid (low), have been on traditional medication for years and haven’t seen a difference. You see, there are many ways to treat the thyroid beyond the synthetic medication, Synthroid.
Usually, a doctor gets a blood test for a hormone called TSH. This is a hormone from the pituitary gland that tells the thyroid what to do. If you have low thyroid hormone, the pituitary is supposed to increase the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) to tell the thyroid to put out more hormone. Conversely, if thyroid hormone is high, the pituitary is supposed to decrease the TSH so the thyroid will be told to decrease it’s output. So, a higher TSH can mean lower thyroid and a lower TSH can mean a higher thyroid; it’s backwards.
The problem is, it’s much more complicated than that. The thyroid puts out two main hormones, T3 and T4. T3 is the active hormone and does most of the work. T4 is just a storage molecule and the body needs to turn it into T3 to do the good work it does. So you want plenty of T3, the helpful one. To make it more complicated, there is the Total T3 and Total T4 and the amount free to do work, Free T3 and Free T4. Ultimately, we get the most help from Free T3.
In a perfect world, before civilization and exposures to numerous chemicals and metals, T4 would turn easily into T3 and this would be released as Free T3 and we would be fine. But, as I’ll explain, this isn’t usually the case today. First, normal thyroid function is dependent on many minerals and nutritional cofactor, mainly Iodine, Zinc and Selenium, among others. Studies show rampant deficiencies in these these things, especially in the United States, where commercial farming is no longer adding minerals back to soil as in traditional farming methods. In fact, we are so deficient in Iodine, we use it to do a thyroid scan. If we had all the Iodine we needed, the thyroid would not take up anymore when given to people. But, in medicine, we give Iodine to patients, let the thyroid take it up, and scan the thyroid for how well it does this. So we actually have a test, called a Thyroid Scan, to assess the thyroid, which wouldn’t work if we were not deficient. Did you know that Iodine used to be in flour and in all baked products in the U.S.? Around the 1940’s, it was removed and replaced by Bromine.
Converting T4 into the helpful T3 is dependent on many cofactors, which are usually deficient. In addition, some things block this conversion. Chlorine, in water; Fluoride, in toothpaste and water; Bromine, in baked products and hot tubs are all common inhibitors of the conversion. In fact, these can make the good T3 turn back into T4 for storage. This can be tested by testing a Reverse T3. If this is elevated, these toxins must be decreased or eliminated, deficiencies must be fixed and sometimes these patients need extra T3. This can be done by using Liothyronine (Cytomel), the synthetic T3, or by using Natural Thyroid Hormone, which has T3 and T4 together. Personally, I prefer the Natural Thyroid Hormone, which has both hormones and is cheaper.
As you can see, the thyroid gland can be a complicated subject. It may take advanced testing, fixing deficiencies, decreasing or eliminating exposure to toxins and taking Natural Thyroid Hormone or a combination of synthetic hormones to get it right. Ultimately, the patient should feel better. If fact, there are studies that show just taking a little Natural Thyroid Hormone, whether you really need it or not, decreases heart disease and other problems in many people. Not too bad for an inexpensive hormone.
If you feel you may have Thyroid Problems or have taken Thyroid Medication for some time and haven’t seen the benefits, call The Maine Center for Functional Medicine at (207)941-0080 for a Consultation. We can get more aggressive with your thyroid or find out what else it may be. Let’s make you feel better!